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PlantFiles: Smoke Tree, Cooke's Purple Smoke Tree
Cotinus coggygria

Family: Anacardiaceae (an-a-kard-ee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cotinus (ko-TYE-nus) (Info)
Species: coggygria (kog-GY-gree-uh) (Info)

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10 members have or want this plant for trade.

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12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From softwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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11 positives
7 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive rosalma On Oct 7, 2012, rosalma from Mendon, MA wrote:

I planted the lime green variety (very light pink flowers) in 2004. Continually grew taller (about 15 ft.) each year with very long whips. I planted it in front of a kitchen window where I would always have it in view (love the color - also changes to a peachy green in fall). However the taller it grew, the less I liked it because it was actually too close to the window (about 8 feet away), and hid some beautiful plants on the incline that is in back of it). I was too afraid to trim or cut back, but after getting more knowledge re: this plant, I basically cut it all back to about 3 ft. this past March. Because it takes such a long time to leaf out (one of the last in Spring), I was fearful I had killed it. By mid-May it was in full leaf and absolutely perfect for me at that height. It continued to grow all summer and is back to 15 ft., which I'm not happy with, but I will not be afraid to really cut it back in any future years. I'd love to transplant it, but I fear that would kill it for sure. I love this bush/tree (especially color), but am unhappy with where I chose to plant it. Does anyone know if a cotinus of this age would be doomed if we were to cut it way back next spring, and then transplant?

Positive Mike_W On Aug 31, 2012, Mike_W from Sterling, MA wrote:

We had a smoke tree growing next to our garage ever since I can remember. My father said he planted it when he was younger. It was quite large, at least 15 feet tall and had green leaves and tan colored smoke puffs every summer. The little smoke puffs looked like tumbleweeds on a breezy day as they rolled and bounced along the ground.

Unfortunately, we lost the tree last fall when the northeast was hit by that freak Halloween snow storm. The snow was wet and heavy and broke most branches on the tree and we had to cut it down. The good news is that it send new growth from the old stump, so we now have a smoke "bush" growing in the same spot.

Positive Kacey12 On Jul 15, 2012, Kacey12 from BELLVUE, CO wrote:

This unique tree had been planted in my yard in about 1977, the orginal builder brought it from Missouri. We have lived here for 24 years, for many years it did nothing, we thought it was some sort of natural shrub, then it started growing taller and the last three years had produced the smoke like appearance in spring and pretty fall foliage. It catches everyone's attention because it is unusual for this area, the Rocky Mt. foothills, our altitude is 5400 ft. We never water it, our climate is dry, and it is in full brutal sun, and we can get some extremely cold temps in winter, yet it does beautifully. I just love this tree!

Positive amitrica On Jun 5, 2012, amitrica from Montreal
Canada wrote:

Just planted one in May with purple foliage. Little flowers appeared in the end of May. Still waitinf for the real "smoke" - guess that this will happen in the summer

Positive delbertyoung56m On Mar 30, 2012, delbertyoung56m from Medina, NY wrote:

Lovely bush or tree. I planted mine in 2001 and it is now about 15 ft tall after 11 years. I finally trimmed all the lower limbs off it this past Winter so that the daffodils underneath can get more light. It seems to look really nice with an open bottom. The smoke it a great asset to any yard.

Positive MObarb On Apr 15, 2010, MObarb from Springfield, MO wrote:

This is the hardiest plant I've ever met. My son brought home a twig from school on Arbor Day, I threw it in a pot, it moved with us 3 times in that pot, was left forgotten in the pot outside other than occasional waterings over 3 years (sorry). Finally I planted it in the current yard. It survived two bad ice storms since going into the ground (in MO), but it is growing beautifully, just keeps on keeping on every Spring. Now about 7 feet tall, has had no special attention, but looks great. Aside from the sentimental value, it is a tree/shrub I would recommend for it's hardiness, reliability, balanced shape, blue-green leaf color. Great tree.

Positive purplesun On Apr 13, 2009, purplesun from Krapets
Bulgaria (Zone 8a) wrote:

Please, note, this is not a plant for wet or heavy soils! Here in Bulgaria, where it is native, it grows on sites that are highly unsuitable for other plants, i.e. dry, rocky, hot, infertile, calcareous soils. It is to be seen at such places along roads, and is easy to recognise in fall, when it is most conspicuous due to the brilliant crimson colour; otherwise it blends with other plants into a green mass.
I grow a Royal Purple individual in Krapets, and it does fairly well, considering the soil, which is very fertile, yet dryish.
It has attained massive proportions and a great age in Balchik, as can be seen from the photo I've posted. The soil is perfect - a poor, shallow chalk, overlain with the thinest of humus layers.

Neutral dakotaroser On Jun 25, 2008, dakotaroser from Kingston, NH wrote:

One of my favorite shrubs/trees, especially the purple varieties(I do own a young lady(green) and its a small beauty,
really flowers out and its tuff. I put in a nice velvet cloak
several years back and even though it had some die back
occasssionally it was always beautiful dark deep marron
colors. This year I waited for it to do its thing and nothing,
it did not come back, well I trimmed its 5 ft size down to
3 ft. and after a couple weeks there is some growth coming
out of the base but I may wait and cut the rest down to this
new growth and hopefull start again. My two royal purple
smokes are ok, a really nice selection as well, just amazing
color but it doesn't "smoke" out like the greener ones, its
still a knock out color in the landscape with great fall
colors. Nice red outline on the purple leaves, I may need to give the velvet
a light mulch even though I don't want them to get wet
feet, especially in the winter. I have my velvet cloak on a slight hill for good drainage
I have enjoyed growing these., want to try the golden one next. I still don't know what happened to the Velvet Cl variety,
it was a milder snowy winter here in southeast NH, I expected
it to come back with no die back and now its barely even
alive?? Any feed back appreciated.

Positive Malus2006 On Apr 4, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

In Minnesota most planting are of the purple leaf varieties. The harsher climates of zone 4 here keep most plants small - in some area they are almost herb - like, dying back to a few inches above the ground every year - in a suburban yard I have seen a medium size shrub at about 6 feet in height, and yet there are huge speciments at a private college near or in St. Paul - I forgot the name but the smoke trees were in a central plaza surrounded by buildings next to walls so it increase a zone there and are more of small trees to about 20 feet tall - maybe more but hard to remember. Hardiness may vary like crazy, especially between different cultivars.

This species is very suspectible to verticillium wilts that causes diebacks of the branches and sometimes kill the entire plant.

It sometimes get spots infections on its leaves.

Negative GreenerGardens On Aug 4, 2006, GreenerGardens from Goshen, NY wrote:

For the past 4 or 5 years I've had several of these smoke trees as I love their color and texture. All of a sudden the tips of one of mine has turned brown and appears to be dying. I don't get it - all of my trees have been doing so well. Any thoughts - anyone?

Negative SmokeTreeWoe On Jul 18, 2006, SmokeTreeWoe from Toronto
Canada wrote:

My smoke tree is doing poorly, perhaps owing to the clay-heavy, non-draining soil. I think it's just too wet. The top leaves on each branch are wilting and dying.

Positive CatskillKarma On Sep 21, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

I have three of these that have made it through three winters in the Catskills. They are in full sun on a hillside with lousy soil--clay and rocks. The are quite full, growing as shrubs. I have neither watered nor fertilized, although I did wrap them in burlap their first winter. I was inspired to plant them by a really spectacular old tree in a local cemetery.

Neutral HAMMERMAN On Sep 20, 2004, HAMMERMAN from Loveland, OH wrote:

I planted this about Sept. 2002. Although it leafed out and created "smoke" normally this spring, the growth is almost on one side and and doesn't seem to be creating any ladder branches. I think this is referred to as "lions tail".

As it has only been in the ground for a year, my intention was to let it start to find its own shape before attempting any pruning but I am concerned about winter snow-ice-wind damaging it.

Neutral cleeertofly On Jun 14, 2004, cleeertofly from South Bend, IN wrote:

I have two plants. One is a burgandy color and the other is green. Both of them have a condition I believe is called "Lions Tail" which results in very long branches with the blooms and smoke at the ends.

Neutral lupinelover On Jan 13, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Seedlings show a lot of variability in the leaf color; best to get cuttings of known varieties rather than seed-grown (which are much cheaper).

Positive WAYNEB On Nov 9, 2002, WAYNEB wrote:

In America, this is often called the European Smoke Tree to distinguish it from Cotinus obovatus, the native American smoke tree. The showy "smoke" actually appears after the flowers which are small, kind of dull yellow and inconspicuous. It is composed of the seeds and seed stems. It is very unique and eye catching. As with many purple leaved trees and shrubs, the leaves of the purple-leaved varieties such as 'Royal Purple' and 'Velvet Cloak' are most intensely purple early in the season and gradually fade somewhat towards green as the leaf ages. This effect seems more pronounced on cotinus when in the shade. A relatively new variety, 'Grace', is reported to have especially large 'smoke'. It is a cross between C. obovatus and C. coggygria.

Positive ricotra2 On Aug 25, 2002, ricotra2 wrote:

In the beginning of Spring, (when I planted the tree), the leaves have a grayish burgundy color and do not get wet by water (like waterproof). Stays very healthy looking with no effects from insects and bugs ( up until the summer, now)

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 8, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Needs well drained soil and moderate watering when young. Once established, it's drought tolerant.

Neutral darius On Jul 30, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

This plant has done better since I moved it from too much shade. Not as 'purple' as the nursery photos showed however. During the summer, leaves have a reddish green tint, and more red in the Fall. Slow to moderate grower.

It produces inconspicuous plume-like puffs, hence the name.

Neutral dave On Aug 15, 2001, dave wrote:

A deciduous shrub that may be trained as a tree, growing to 15 feet tall.
Leaves are alternating colors, with green on the top and blue on the bottom. This causes a very interesting and appealing pattern when a gentle breeze blows the leaves around.

In June, blooms appear. The flowers have plumy hairs, resulting in a smoky appearance surrounding the flowers, hence the name "Smoke Tree".


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Pelham, Alabama
Prescott, Arizona
Clovis, California
Hesperia, California
Long Beach, California
North Fork, California
Penn Valley, California
Centerville, Georgia
Decatur, Georgia
Fayetteville, Georgia
Marietta, Georgia
Boise, Idaho
Aurora, Illinois
Hancock, Iowa
Barbourville, Kentucky
Calvert City, Kentucky
Camden, Maine
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Mendon, Massachusetts
Sterling, Massachusetts
Wareham, Massachusetts
Fennville, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota (3 reports)
Republic, Missouri
Springfield, Missouri
Polson, Montana
Omaha, Nebraska
Kingston, New Hampshire
Goshen, New York
Medina, New York
Sodus, New York
West Kill, New York
Sanford, North Carolina
Vale, North Carolina
Walkertown, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Loveland, Ohio
Jay, Oklahoma
Portland, Oregon
Watsontown, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Lenoir City, Tennessee
Mc Minnville, Tennessee
Iredell, Texas
Overton, Texas
Tooele, Utah
Leesburg, Virginia
Bellevue, Washington

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